12 Amazing Inventors of Gay Culture

By: Christopher Harrity
11.29.2011

Over the last year we have been presenting profiles on men, women, and even a publication, that moved the needle forward for gay visibility in the arts and society. Some are great examples of political insight, scientific wisdom, and cultural integrity. Others are simply sex bombs who gave us something to aspire to and fantasize about.

There will be many more to come in this series as the pantheon of LGBT influencers is a vast archive. But for now, here, culled form this year's profiles, are our top 12.

 

12. Mercedes de Acosta
She was a vamp, a scamp, and a hell of a tramp. As the first lesbian cad, a wolf on the make, she seduced and romanced Hollywood's leading ladies.

 

11. After Dark Magazine
The groundbreaking entertainment magazine of the 1970s paved the way for glossy gay publishing—while keeping a polite sense of propriety.

 

10. Wilhelm von Gloeden
His life was devoted to photographing the beautiful young men of Taormina, and it produced images worthy of Utopian fantasies.

 

9. Gordon Merrick
His lushly written homo-love potboilers made it onto the supermarket paperback rack long before people even spoke of homosexuals in polite conversation.

 

8. Jean Genet
A poet, a filmmaker, a playwright, and a petty thief. He went against the grain and became an underground hero, producing lushly erotic works in the process.

 

7. Chuck Renslow and Dom Orejudos
They not only gave us the photographs and artwork depicting an idyllic leather lifestyle, they created the first American leather bar in Chicago.

 

6. Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness
Yes, the book may be florid and a bit tortured, but Hall's lesbian novel helped change censorship laws worldwide.

 

5. Sergei Diaghilev
This impresario created ballets with featured roles for men (his lover Nijinsky, for example.) He moved Russian ballet into the 20th century by recognizing the erotic potential of the male dancer.

 

4. Christopher Isherwood
His elegant writing aside, the amazing life he shared with artist Don Bachardy was written about in his stupendous diaries and it made gay love normal.

 

3. Dr. Evelyn Hooker
She was the main mover to erase homosexuality as a disease from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

 

2. E.M. Forster
His novel Maurice was shelved for decades for fear of reprisals, but it is one of the earliest examples of a gay novel with a happy ending.

 

1. Magnus Hirschfeld
To address sex as a scientific subject was brave, but to give scientific evidence that having same-sex desire was not a mental illness was completely ballsy. So the Nazi's burned down his house, museum, and library. He got the ball rolling, folks.

 

"Inventors of Gay" is our series on important people and cultural influences in LGBT history that helped create the culture we enjoy today.

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